Landscape of the Dubai skyline from The Meydan Bridge

7 cheap things you must try on a budget in Dubai in 2023

Dubai is a popular tourist spot hosting more than 16 million tourists a year. The city is associated with the glitz and the glamour of billionaires, celebrities and influencers. From the 7-star hotels to man-made islands in the shape of the world map, impossible is nothing to the city of Dubai.

While the city is a modern playground with a host of popular touristy and expensive activities, it is equally over-flowing with cheap and even free things to do. Whether you want to splash your cash or keep your wallet in your pocket, you will always be spoilt for choice whether you’re looking for activities or food. We have selected 7 underrated free or cheap things to do in Dubai to experience the city like a local.

A couple of things to note before we get into it:

• The local currency in the UAE is Dirhams and is abbreviated as AED or dhs. $1 = 3.6 AED and £1 = 4.6 AED

• In the UAE there are no postal/ZIP codes. Locations are usually identified by landmarks or at most, a street name. Google maps links have been added to each location to make it easier for you to navigate.

1. Stroll through history and culture at Al-Seef


Located on the Creekfront, Al-Seef by Meeras is a vibrant development lined with box-like buildings of designer stores and restaurants. Although it is a great area for a spot of retail-therapy, it equally is a great place to wander around and enjoy the views of the Dubai Creek. While this part of the development portrays the contemporary elements of Dubai, further down you will find Al Seef Heritage Souq with old Emirati style buildings. Here you can take a stroll down history and soak in the rich Arabian culture. Al-Seef is perfect for experiencing old and new Dubai in one stretch of road.

Al-Seef Street, Bur Dubai. Google maps link

2. Treat yourself to a 1dhs (£0.20) ‘karak’ tea


There’s nothing more satisfying than a good cuppa right? If you’ve never tried ‘karak’ tea before, brace yourself for a cuppa that’ll change your life. Tea, or ‘chai’ as it is called locally, is a beverage that widely consumed in the Middle East no matter the time, weather or occasion. Locals will swing by a cafeteria in their cars, tooting their horns and signalling the amount of chais they want. It is an activity that’ll surely help you to blend in and not look like a tourist.

You can get a cup of karak chai for 1 dirham in most of the cafeterias you find on the street corners of Dubai. However, I personally enjoy the one from “Al Masa Cafeteria” located in the Al-Jaffiliya area. Their chai is hands down one of the best in Dubai, in my opinion.

Al Masa Cafeteria, Al-Jaffiliya. Google maps link

3. Enjoy the classic Middle Eastern architecture at Madinat Jumeriah


Although Dubai is most known for its modern architecture, personally I love classical Arabian structures. Madinat Jumeriah is primarily a small village of hotels and while some parts are private areas, attached to them is the Souk Madinat Jumeirah where you can walk through the indoor Souk filled with traditional shops selling carpets, garments, oud and more. You can then exit through the back of the Souk and experience a traditional middle eastern village.

The souk is built around a stream and surrounded by palm trees and other desert plants. Here there are a plentiful of restaurants, cafes and areas where you can enjoy the view of the Burj al Arab. The place has a very calm and peaceful vibe to it which is a nice change to the hustle and bustle of the main city. This is a place you can come to relax, wind down, take a walk and enjoy the view. You can, however, take an abra ride through the stream but it’s a bit pricey compared to other abra rides at 60dhs (£13).

Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim 3. Google maps link

4. Head down to the arcade for Funday Tuesday

Image from TripAdvisor

This one is good for the kids (or adults too depending on your interests, we aren’t judging). Fun City is a franchise of arcades in the UAE which are located in various malls.

A popular promotion they have going on every Tuesday called “Funday Tuesday”, all the kids rides and quite a few of the arcade games are 1dhs. Not all games are 1dhs though and you’ll find mostly the kids’ games are 1dhs. Nevertheless, it is a nice way to keep the kids entertained for a couple of hours without tearing through your wallet. 

Various: Oasis Mall, Century Mall, Mercato Mall, Arabian Center, Ibn Battuta Mall. Fun City store locator 

5. Grab a bargain at Naif Souq


Now this one is a slight wildcard in the list. I did introduce this article as a list of free or cheap things to do and while this definitely is cheap, because there are so many bargains you can end up spending a whole day here and spending a lot of money. But you do get a good value for your money so I guess that counts right?

Souq Naif is a place locals love to shop at and recently, it has been growing as a tourist spot. You can get pretty much anything here and if you wander around, there’s Banyas Square where you can get cheap electronics and the famous Gold Souq neighbouring the area. Souq Naif is especially well known for its good quality abayas and dishdashas/thobes (the traditional Arabian dress for women and men) at a good price, so if you’re thinking about purchasing these garments, this is the place.

Even if you don’t spent money here, it surely is a place you can experience the true soul of Dubai as you walk through the hustle and bustle of the markets and watch as people haggle prices to grab a bargain.

Souq Naif, Naif. Google maps link

6. Stream down the Dubai Creek for 1dhs


One of the classic cheap things to do in Dubai. Located in the old town known as “Bur Dubai”, there are a few abra (a traditional boat) stations which stream along the Dubai Creek. The boats cross every few minutes and only will cost you 1dhs. If you are willing to stretch a bit further to 2dhs, you can get an abra which crosses less frequently but it is much less crowded since the 1dhs abra is also used by locals for commuting.

There are a few stations which all go to different areas so be sure to ask the ticket office what your options are first. If you start in Bur Dubai, you can get abras going towards the Deira Old Souk or the famous Gold Souk where you need not purchase anything, but soak in the atmosphere of the dazzling jewellery market. I’d recommend you take a ride towards sunset and soak in the views of the Creek as the sun sets.

Bur Dubai Abra Station, Google maps link.
Deira Old Souk Abra Station, Google maps link.

7. Sink your feet in the sand at Kite beach


There is no shortage of beaches in Dubai and one of my favourites is Kite Beach. It has quite a unique rustic vibe that most of the beaches don’t have. Along with the beach, you have plenty of activities including a running track, cycling track, and a range of food trucks (pictured above). There is also a kids’ play area which makes Kite Beach fun for the whole family. Kite beach also has one of my favourite burger places in Dubai called SALT which is a must have if you’re in the area.

There are however plenty of beaches around Dubai for you to enjoy as a free activity during your visit. There are the more touristy ones like Jumeirah Beach and Umm Suqeim Beach which has a view of the Burj Al Arab. But, I prefer to avoid these because they’re too crowded. An underrated beach is Al Mamzar beach which is much more quiet and it is absolutely stunning with its bright blue waters and white sand. They also have ladies-only days on Mondays and Wednesdays which is an added bonus if you’d like the extra privacy!

Kite Beach, Google maps link
Umm Suqeim Beach, Google maps link
Al Mamzar Beach, Google maps link

Thats a wrap!

That’s our selection of cheap things to do in Dubai, but there’s plenty more! Head over to our Dubai archives to find travel tips, hidden gems, itineraries and more cheap things to do in Dubai.

Don’t want the headache of planning your Dubai trip? Let us do it for you! We offer Dubai travel planning services, get in touch with us for a free introduction call!

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